Reducing Turnover by Increasing Engagement

Hiring and retaining good employees is a challenge that almost every industry is facing. Learn a few tips from Chief Administrative Officer, Monica Maxwell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP for keeping your employees happy where they are at.

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The country is dealing with record low unemployment rates.  Economically and for the citizens of the US, this is positive news.  For employers it does make hiring and retention more challenging. Employees are faced with a myriad of employment options.  Even if they are not actively seeking another position, they are barraged with opportunities to work at other places.  Better, more amazing places.  Places next to cool new hipster bars and food carts.

So, what’s a clinic owner and manager to do? The number one reason employees leave their place of employment is their manager.  Retaining employees requires a deep engagement by the manager to ensure they understand why their employees work for them and what motivates them to stay.

The days of authoritarian, transactional management are over.  Employee engagement is the key to retention."Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Leadership, in its truest form, is about serving the people you are charged with leading to make certain they grow. It is about ensuring your people aspire to their “moonshot.”  That inspiration keeps them with you as it inspires loyalty.  Doing this takes dedication to mentorship.

So why is this important? Ninety percent of CEOs say engagement is a critical component to an organization’s success, but only 30% of employees report being engaged. The majority cite their direct managers as the number one source of their disengagement.

What is engagement? It is the extent to which the employee feels passionate about their jobs (not satisfied).  Engagement is specially achieved by ensuring an employee feels fulfilled and valued.


And how do you get employees to feel valued and fulfilled?  According to Gallup, the majority of employees want the following from their leaders:

Mentorship: Employees want to feel their manager is invested in their professional growth for the long-term.

Follow-through: Employees want to know that when their manager says something will be done, it will.

Accountability: Employees want to see that people are held to a standard for their work.  If someone is not pulling their weight, they expect action.

Fairness: Fairness is a tricky word.  Employees want to feel like their leader’s decision is made from an objective place.  Perceived fairness is sometimes difficult when tough calls are made.

Most would agree that the majority of leaders want to engage their staff and be seen as inspirational.  So, where is the disconnect?

Often leaders have day to day responsibilities outside of management. Many leaders are unsuccessful juggling both the leading and managing of staff and their daily workloads. There are several reasons for this-- as leaders we were often promoted for traits such as our ability to solve problems, put out fires, and fix issues.  In essence, we were strong individual contributors. Transitioning from an individual contributor to a leader takes significant forethought that most are not prepared for. People rarely have a roadmap for what traits a leader should have. Critical traits for a leader are as follows:

Be modest: Humility is critical.  Letting your team know every time you have a success makes the work seem all about you.  Leadership is never about you.  It is about your team.

Don’t act like a genius: No one wants to work for a know-it-all.  Letting those around you succeed and celebrating your successes as a team will inspire your team to work beyond their capabilities. 

Ask and listen: Being a good listener is a critical trait for any manager.  Don’t try to anticipate what others are going to say.  Ask for input.  Listen to not just what was said, but what wasn’t.

Don’t own all the communication: Spend a day reviewing your meetings.  Were you the one who talked the most?  Flip that on its head.  Spend some time letting others share ideas.  Often times your staff has better ideas that you do.

Share the wealth: Cheer for your staff.  Again, your success is their success.  Give credit where it is due and do so loudly.

Act on good ideas: Don’t be slow to implement a good idea when you hear one.  It will show your staff they can make a difference and that increases their engagement.

Show appreciation: Recognition and appreciation are paramount to engaged employees. Not all employees are the same.  Take time understanding what motivated your staff as individuals and make sure you are helping them achieve their long-term goals.

Be transparent: We are in a culture of hyper transparency. Information, true and false, is readily available online and your staff expects the same from you.  This is a paradigm shift from how most managers learned to operate in the business world, but one we must make if we want to earn the trust of staff.

Finally, a strong leader will always take a little more of the blame and a little less credit.  This helps your team feel supported by you.  In turn, they will support you back.

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Eileen Hagerman's picture

These are all very good points, but there is one that is omitted that I believe is one very real reason why we are losing good people; workplace bullying. Bullying on the technician level as well as veterinarians bullying technicians is rampant, and is rarely addressed as it is ignored due to the discomfort that goes along with addressing it, and also the old "that's how doctors are", or heirarchies and cliques.

Every technician board I am on is filled with sad, sometimes tragic stories about good technicians that feel as if they have no other choice but to move on. My question is this: until it is addressed and a stop put to it, aren't we all just jumping into someone elses's fire?

Sarah Bernardi's picture

Great point Eileen! I've recently been researching this, and its interesting how the tech experience parallels the nurse experience. May I suggest checking out Kathleen Bartholomew, she has done an excellent job addressing bullying in the human hospital ... I found her work super applicable to the vet hospital... here is the link to her site: